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As our children morph into teens and young adults, they’re on a journey towards greater independence which will thrill and terrify parents in equal measure. Teens can now feed and clothe themselves (though their choices in both these departments can be somewhat unorthodox); are in the main now masters of their own social lives; and can generally get to and from school under their own steam.
Happy days! Job done, right? Of course, it’s tempting to look toward the teenage years as a period when we can take our foot off the parenting gas and let them get on with the business of living without us in the background 24/7. What I’ve learned over the last few years, however, is that being more independent doesn’t equate to them needing you less. In fact I’d say that there is as much to be gained from being around for a teen as there is for your tween, toddler and new born.
Yes, they’re fine on the bus/tram/train/tube now, but there’s something lovely about doing the school run every now and then that doesn’t diminish as they grow up. I’ve had some cracking conversations with my two as we’ve crawled along the Mancunian Way; they seem to lose their teenage inhibitions in the car – no subjects are off limits.
Sadly, the days of snuggling up and listening to them read Biff, Chip and Kipper will give way to more taxing homework from quadratic equations to the intricacies of post war politics. While you may not be involved in the nuts and bolts of their schoolwork to the same extent now, they need you there to encourage, cajole and motivate. Speaking as one with a child in the throes of GCSEs myself, I can testify that my role of shuttle-running hot drinks and snacks to revision-central is seen by them as absolutely fundamental to exam success!
While you may have done your last stint staying up till midnight sewing the camel costume for the nativity, this is only the forerunner to times you’ll be needed for crisis repairs and alterations for the teens’ night out. Believe me, your help with wardrobe malfunctions is mission–critical in a way you’ll not have experienced before and the rewards of being there to help are similarly rich.
Finally, there are the crucial roles of counsellor, confidante and agony aunt to consider. Don’t underestimate how much they’ll appreciate you just listening to their daily download. Life as a 21st century teen can be incredibly tough; you may not have all the answers they’re looking for but being a sounding-board can often be enough to tip them back into a happy place after a bad day at school.
All these things come down to one thing, which is time.
If you’re on the cusp of deciding whether to relinquish some of the job flexibility you’ve had while your children were younger, I’d say think long and hard before you do, if, of course, circumstances permit.
The high-school years whizz by and before you know it you’ve only got a short time with them before they fly the nest. Hoover up as much of this precious time as you can, I guarantee they’ll thank you for it one day.